International Social Survey Program Finds Intolerance Against Christians in Turkey
The International Social Survey Program - a 45-nation academic group - finds that nearly 40 percent of population has negative view of Christians. 49 percent of those surveyed said they would either "absolutely" or "most likely" not support a political party that accepted people from another religion. No non-Muslim religious gathering in Turkey is completely "risk free."
Compass Direct News (04.12.2009) reports that more than half of the population of Muslim-majority Turkey opposes members of other religions holding meetings or publishing materials to explain their faith. The overwhelming majority of Turkey (90%) considers themselves Sunni Muslim.
Ali Çarkoglu, one of two professors at Sabanci University who conducted the study, said no non-Muslim religious gathering in Turkey is completely "risk free." The report, issued last month, was part of a study commissioned by the International Social Survey Program, a 45-nation academic group that conducts polls and research about social and political issues. The survey quantified how religious the population is in each of its 43-member countries.
In Turkey, Christians face dual threats from a self-declared "secular" state and from members of the public who, according to the study, have become more observant in their Islamic faith. Christians are often seen as enemies of the state, enemies of Islam or traitors to Turkish culture.
At times in Turkey's history, the government has "manipulated public opinion" by putting forth the message that Turkish Christians are aligned with powers outside of the country that want to divide the nation, according to Zekai Tanyar, a Turkish national who has been a Christian for more than 30 years. He is chairman of the Association of Protestant Churches (in Turkey). "There are some who view that Christians are out to undermine the country, especially missionaries," he said.
In January 2007, Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Armenian weekly Agos, was shot dead in Istanbul. Dink was a member of the Armenian Christian community in Turkey. Three months later, two Turkish Christians and a German Christian were murdered in Malatya. The accused killers in all four slayings have alleged links to Turkish nationalists. Two other Christians, converts from Islam, are standing trial charged with, among other things, "insulting Turkishness" and inciting hatred against Islam.
We thank the Belgium-based NGO “Human Rights without Frontiers Int’l”, www.hrwf.net, for their courtesy to allow our usage of this text by Will Morris.